overcast night ---
the skeleton you bring me is
older than the last
All of us on base were required to stand guard duty on
a rotating basis. The security of the base depended on it. Located in
the Mekong Delta
region of the former Republic of South Vietnam, the area was a hotbed
Viet Cong activity. Some nights were quiet. Others were forays into hell,
the air pierced with automatic rifle fire and incoming mortars. On guard
duty, you stared into the darkness, minute after minute, hour after hour,
listening, waiting, watching...your body tense, your imagination taunting
you with pictures of what could be. You never let your guard down. The
night had eyes. Especially on an overcast night. It was a darkness unlike
any darkness Id encountered...an eerie rainforest of nothing. Dense,
inky, and quiet. Too quiet. Even the cricket knew to be silent. Standing
watch at night brought me face to face with mortality, a concept I hadnt
entertained as a high school student. Before the war, I thought I was
invincible. Death, something that visited the diseased and old people.
Facing mortality, my deepest thoughts and feelings surfaced. Psychological
skeletons, previously suppressed, came to life. Nobody to impress. No
masks to wear. My senses clear, unmuddied by alcohol and marijuana. The
longer I stood watch, the deeper my thoughts. Fear, hatred, self doubt...
skeletons of every shape and size appeared out of the darkness, waging
war with my mind. A war I am still fighting.